SPORTS

AEK and Iraklis share top spot

A late goal by PAOK’s Nikos Froussos stopped crosstown Thessaloniki rival Iraklis from taking the outright lead in the first-division soccer league yesterday. The game ended 1-1. With a 4-2-1 record, Iraklis now surprisingly shares the top slot with AEK. Both teams have 14 points from seven games. Defending champions Olympiakos also drew 1-1 against AEK Saturday and shares third place with Panionios and Proodeftiki on 13 points each. Taking advantage of the round’s results, Panathinaikos closed in on habitual league contenders Olympiakos and AEK with its 1-0 victory over Panionios yesterday. Panathinaikos now has 12 points, the same as PAOK. In other action yesterday it was: Ioannina 1, Aegaleo 1; Proodeftiki 5, Akratitos 1; Xanthi 1, Panachaiki 1; Ionikos 1, OFI 1; and Aris 1, Kallithea 1. Iraklis controlled play for long spells against PAOK. Polish striker Marcin Mieciel scored the game’s opening goal in the 37th minute and came close to another soon after, but was denied by keeper Kyriacos Tohouroglou. PAOK, missing three of its key players due to injuries, leveled with substitute Froussos just eight minutes before the final whistle, sliding the ball past goalkeeper Costas Halkias at close range. Panathinaikos was more aggressive in its game against Panionios, pursuing victory to move up the table. It came close in the 13th minute when a blistering shot by Nikos Lymberopoulos was saved by Panionios’s Czech goalie Jaroslav Drobny. But two minutes later, Lymberopoulos gave his team the lead with a header from inside the area, neatly sending the ball into Drobny’s upper right corner. On Saturday, AEK squandered two scoring opportunities in the opening minutes of the game. In its first serious attempt on goal in the 29th minute, Olympiakos took the lead with Predrag Djordjevic. The midfielder found the ball at his feet after a header by Brazilian forward Giovanni hit Dionyssis Chiotis’s crossbar. Three minutes before the end of the first period, keeper Dimitris Eleftheropoulos prevented an equalizer, using his foot to deflect a blistering diagonal shot by AEK’s Demis Nikolaidis. But the goalminder was beaten two minutes later when a pass from Vassilis Tsartas helped Nikolaidis beat Olympiakos’s defense to make the final score 1-1. The rest of the match, which was the first with Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec at Olympiakos’s helm, saw continued attacks from AEK, but all efforts were stopped by an excellent Eleftheropoulos. The keeper, by far the game’s top player, made at least four decisive saves, including a powerful header by Vassilis Lakis from two meters. (AP)